French company Simon launches the Steam’R, a machine that kills weeds and weed seeds using steam.
With the Steam‘R its manufacturer Simon targets biological growers and growers of conventional crops where mechanical in-row weeding is not possible.
The Steam‘R works fully automatic. The driver’s seat and steering wheel are only there for moving the machine from one field to another. After starting its job in the field the machine works autonomously, and sends the ‘operator’ a signal when it’s done or in case it needs help. The Steam‘R also shuts itself down whenever it detects a problem.
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The steam ‘plates’ measure 3 meters in length and 1.5 meters in width. Simon offers the machine with 3, 4 or 5 plates. The track width measures 1.80 meters, the distance between the plates and the machine itself can be adjusted.
The diesel engine heats water and turns it into steam with a temperature of 180 degrees Celsius or 356 degrees Fahrenheit. The plates then inject the steam into the ground. At that point, the temperature is still 165 degrees Celsius or 329 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the best results the soil has to be heated to a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit) to a depth of 8 to 9 centimeters. This, claims Simon, will kill weed seeds without hurting soil life. How fast the machine can operate thus depends largely on soil temperature. However, Simon claims the Steam‘R works up to 25% faster than its competitors, with corresponding savings in fuel consumption.
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The Steam‘R forms an alternative for mechanical weeding, especially in crops where weeding needs to be done by hand, such as leeks, lamb’s lettuce or spinach. While it’s getting more and more difficult for crop growers to find personnel, an autonomous machine suchs as the Steam‘R could be the answer to that problem.
Water is being supplied through a hose on a reel, that automatically unrolls en rolls up again while the machine is operating. Different settings can be chosen using a full-colour display at the front of the machine. Monitoring the Steam‘R can be done using a smartphone.
The machine comes in 3 different versions: the Steam‘R 600 (with 3 plates) puts out 1.200 pounds (or 600 kilos) of steam per hour, the 800 (with 4 plates) has an output of 1.600 pounds, and the Steam‘R 1000 generates 2.000 pounds of steam per hour. Operating widths are 3.10, 4.10 en 5.10 meters.
Prices start at around € 130.000 for the Steam’R 600 and € 140.000 for the Steam’R 1000. However, that is without additional investments needed in for instance a water treatment installation, for areas where the machine is being fed with hard water, rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Therefore, a price tag of around € 175.000 would be more realistic.